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I really enjoyed this autobiographical apologetic for atheism. There is a gentleness and sensitivity in the author's approach that permits a relaxed engagement with the ideas that contrasts with the Alom Shaha was born in Bangladesh but grew up in London. A parent, teacher, science writer, and filmmaker, he has spent most of his professional life trying to share his passion for science and education with the public.

He has represented his community as an elected politician and volunteered at a range of charitable organisations.

What a bloody bonkers article. But the problem of people refusing to acknowledge that it might be more difficult for people from certain backgrounds to be openly atheist is more difficult to address.

So, for example, someone who identifies themselves as Jewish may in fact be an atheist in an intellectual sense while at the same time insisting on eating only kosher food or only marrying someone who is Jewish. Family and community play an important role in the lives of many, if not most, people. To be part of a group, we must share values.

Young Atheist's Handbooks sent to secondary schools

It may be more important to a person to remain part of a group than to confess his or her atheism. For many non-believers, secrecy and pretence are the only options they feel they have, even as adults, so that they can be good children to their parents. The reasons behind this decision are generally social in nature. It may be that they are afraid of getting hurt when stating their disbelief openly, or it may be that they do not see enough merit in disclosing their newly found disbelief to justify hurting the people whom they love.

They prefer remaining a secret disaffiliate… of those making any mention of disaffiliation, around one-third of all narratives included statements to the effect that the authors considered it a necessity to keep their deconversion a secret. So why am I so open about my atheism?

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Is it because, as some seem to think, I am brave? My mother died when I was 13 and my father did not play a large part in my upbringing following her death. It seems perverse to say it, but I may have been lucky in having had little in the way of parenting as a teenager. I suspect that, had my mother lived, I would not be so open or outspoken about my atheism.

I loved my mother deeply, and, had I thought it was something she wanted, I am sure I would have made more of an effort to be a Good Muslim, or at least kept up more of a pretence of being one. I was freed of the pressure to believe what my parents believe. But this is a pressure that most people, especially, I would suggest, from communities such as the one I came from, have to live with well into adulthood.

The Young Atheist's Handbook: Lessons for Living a Good Life without God - Democratic Underground

For many Muslims living in the west, the events of 11 September and the resulting Islamophobia have, understandably, forced them to identify more strongly as Muslims. For me, one of the saddest outcomes of this atrocity is that the actions of a tiny, tiny minority of Islamists have forced a wedge between Muslims and the rest of the world that they did not ask for, creating a barrier that only compassion and empathy will break down.

Alom Shaha: The Young Atheist's Handbook

Whilst I empathise with many Muslims and why they might choose to assert this aspect of their identity, it is one that I have explicitly rejected. Description This is a book for anyone who thinks about what they should believe and how they should live. It's for those who, like Shaha, may need the facts and the ideas -- and the courage -- to break free from inherited beliefs.

He shows that it is possible to live a compassionate, fulfilling, and meaningful life without God. Growing up in a strict Muslim community in south-east London, Alom Shaha learnt that religion was not to be questioned. Reciting the Qu'ran without understanding what it meant was simply a part of life; so, too, was obeying the imam and enduring beatings when he failed to attend the local mosque.

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Shaha was more drawn to science and its power to illuminate. As a teen, he lived between two worlds: the home controlled by his authoritarian father, and a school alive with books and ideas. In a charming blend of memoir, philosophy, and science, Shaha explores the questions about faith and the afterlife that we all ponder.

Through a series of loose 'lessons', he tells his own compelling story, drawing on the theories of some of history's greatest thinkers and interrogating the fallacies that have impeded humanity for centuries. Shaha recounts how his education and formative experiences led him to question how to live without being tied to what his parents, priests, or teachers told him to believe, and offers insights so that others may do the same.